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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Zigstat free SEO statistical & analytical reports

Screenshot of Zigstat website
Image taken with permission.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is vital to the success of any website. A good webmaster or website owner will know how to ensure their site has good SEO, but to the uninitiated it is often a dark art. Even for the best webmaster, having the stats of your site at your fingertips is useful information. can help decode some of the jargon and provide indicators of success by providing free statistical and analytical data on any website. Users provide the name of the website they are checking and in return can see a variety of stats about it. Data provided includes associated organic keywords, similar sites found by the same keywords and most popular sites providing backlinks to the website. There is also a screenshot of the home page, plus a host of SEO stats including the Alexa, Semrush and Moz Domain Authority ranks, popularity by number of visitors and traffic map by country.

The report also shows the page loading speed (vital for user engagement), earnings from advertisements and popularity on numerous social media channels. Thinking somewhat laterally, the analytics draw parallels between the subject site and similar sites on the same IP address, as well as contrasting the site’s success with those showing the same Adsense adverts.

Lastly, the analytics show the WOT Trustworthiness and Google Safety scores for the website as well as reproducing the WHOIS data and information on the domain name and registration details.

But why would anyone want to know this information about a site?

Sometimes, being able to contact the person who registered the site is important, for instance in cases of plagiarism or when serving a cease and desist notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A recent article from the BBC entitled How long will you wait for a shopping website to load? (Matthew Wall, Technology of Business Editor, 19 August 2016) suggests that if a site hasn’t loaded within three seconds, many potential customers will look elsewhere. It is also interesting for website owners to know which sites the web considers most similar to theirs, and how other sites perform serving the same ads as theirs.

Services such as Zigstat are not often widely recognized outside the professional website management realm. But anyone who has a website, no matter how large or small, will benefit from having free information on hand, on demand. A single snapshot of a website’s stats is all very well, but for those looking to grow their business, or see why orders have dropped, regular visits to Zigstat before and after making changes to the site can be beneficial and provide real insight into their own and their competitors’ performance.

The Runaway Ruca travel blog

The Runaway Ruca travel blog.
Image provided and used with permission.

There are many reasons why women choose to go off traveling on their own. It could be part of a healing process to get over a divorce or relationship breakup, or an opportunity to rediscover themselves – the self they lost in the Game of Wife – or life in general.

One such footloose and fancy free traveler is Kristina, founder of the Runaway Ruca support group and travel blog. Kristina is ready to show that “Life After Wife!”, as she calls it, can be happy, fulfilling and enlightening. Yes, she is a divorcee, but as she reminded me, she settled the terms and conditions of her divorce with (not from) her ex-captor HOLDING HANDS AND TAKING A WALK TOGETHER!!! THERE WAS NO ACRIMONY -- EVER! (Capitals and exclamations are all hers). Acrimony is not part of her vocabulary and apparently, she is still friendly with her ex.

Effervescent and intent on living life to the fullest, Kristina invites all of you to share a lively journey across the world. She is witty, loquacious and unapologetically open.

In case you’re wondering, Ruca is Mexican slang for old lady, but Kristina insists she doesn’t feel like one after leaving a 17 year self-described ‘Wife Sentence’ spent ‘suffocating in the stranglehold of suburbia’ and escaping from Spouse Arrest. She laughs that she ‘earned a PhD in the game of psych and a PhD minus in the Game of Wife’ and warns ‘I'm Your World's Worst Wifemare!’

She offers sagacious support for women over 40, experiencing, as she has, a Mid Wife Crisis, expounding on her own hysterical experiences and feelings. She talks to many ‘40 mumble mumble and above’ women who want more than anything to experience life on their own terms – really own themselves – but for various reasons, they simply cannot. Travel and exploration open a life they can experience for themselves, cultivate a sense of empowerment and a positive attitude to the future. This Mid Wife Crisis also manifests itself in a realization of and a desire for personal liberation.

At one point, Kristina didn’t even own a set of keys. Speaking for myself, as someone who is working to declutter my own marital home and my mother-in-law’s house at the same time, I can attest to the liberating feeling of packing something up and sending it off to a new owner, then carefully dusting the space where it once stood or stashing the empty hanger in a bag at the bottom of the closet.

Kristina, the Ruca herself, offers a weekly ‘Drink with the Shrink – Tell your Herstory’ on her blog. The Runaway Ruca group is open to women aged 40 and over who want to share experiences, find support, or simply read a hysterical and informative blog. The idea is to offer inspiration and assistance to those women who want to make more of themselves and their lives. Kristina’s unique vocabulary – she is a bard in her own right – offers phrases like Karma-geddon; Mid-Wife Crisis; Wife Sentence; Fib-liography; Thighs, Lies and Alibis. You get the idea. Kristina is a force of nature, let loose on the world to bring smiles and warm hearts wherever she goes. She has a zest for life and a firm belief that whatever will be, will be. In the meantime, she’ll live in the moment and take everything as it comes. She talks about ESP (Emotional Self Preservation), Dethroning Your Liar Power and how she had to recover from Post Traumatic DRESS DISORDER! A terrific idea. (Yes, I get that one too, as I own one dress – the one I chose to be married in.) Now quite happily orbiting Pluto, without a set of keys, proud owner of not much more than a carry on, she’s bestowing a breath of fresh air to the blogosphere and blowing away a few cobwebs while she’s at it.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Heather Prescott Liebensohn - That Photographer Girl

Heather Prescott Liebensohn - That Photographer Girl
Image provided and used with permission, thanks Heather.

Heather Prescott Liebensohn is better known as That Photographer Girl for a good reason. She has been working for years with wedding parties, bands, performers, commercial enterprises and individuals looking for a fine art portrait or head shot. Given that depth of experience, it’s hardly surprising that her photography has been featured in National Geographic, a publication famed worldwide for quality photography.

For weddings, Heather can make the happy couple feel like celebrities. It’s about the only time most people will be a star in a photoshoot, after all. Working mainly in NY and CT, her portfolio includes having photographed Sir Elton John and Arcade Fire in concert, as well as many other performers and musicians, so she is used to unobtrusively making the most of her subjects. In her recent video, Heather describes her style as ‘lifestyle photography’. This means that the photographs are not stiffly posed but have some action in them. They may even be what some people call ‘in the moment’ pictures, where, as an observer of a scene, Heather will catch a relaxed look without the subjects even being aware that they are being photographed.

Lifestyle photography leads to memorable photographs, taken with the minimum of fuss and maximum of care and attention to detail. For those couples planning a destination wedding, Heather will make the most of that. Whether the wedding party is flying in to New York to celebrate amid the landmarks and skyscrapers, or flying out to enjoy a Caribbean break, Heather is willing to attend the ceremony and capture memories in the making. Described as ‘fearless’, she believes in ‘the small things’ as she quotes from Rob Thomas in the video, and this meticulous approach is what sets her apart from other photographers. This attention is what produces the natural photographs Heather takes.

All good photographers quickly learn the art of putting their subjects at ease, and a wedding photographer has to be particularly good at this, unobtrusively going about their work without disturbing the guests or disrupting the ceremony. While the guests are toasting the couple, the wedding photographer can often be seen pacing around taking atmospheric shots – close ups of the rings, the cake before it is cut, the first bottle of champagne as it sits chilling in the ice bucket. They also have to be able to deal with taking official photographs in the party’s chosen location, so may well have had to undertake some research before the big day. They may even arrive early so that they can scope out the possibilities. With Heather, all of this attention to detail comes with the territory and the result is wonderfully atmospheric shots, looking almost accidental in their construction.

Heather is a relaxed photographer; yes, the party will notice her taking photos, but she won’t intrude until it is time to bring everyone together for the traditional group photograph. She is proud of the fact that she takes natural-looking pictures, pictures of people in motion even if they are not. She uses sophisticated editing techniques to make the results look even better, turning ordinary people into rock stars for the day. The best photographers are easy going, and Heather will join in the party quite happily. Using her natural people-facing skills, she will offer tips and guidance to the guests as she photographs them, in order to take the best photograph of her subject.

Those brides and grooms who know about Heather’s reputation beforehand have been known to inform their partner that ‘Heather will be our photographer’, brooking no discussion on the matter. Other guests who have been asked to contribute towards the costs of the wedding have booked her as the photographer because they know of the quality of work she produces, every time. One look at Heather's website will tell prospective customers that. The website also has extensive details of her other work, prices and contact details.

For those couples planning a wedding in New York or Connecticut, or couples based in those states planning to marry abroad, Heather should be on the list of possible photographers. Even for those booking a wedding package from abroad, the option is often there to specify a photographer rather than use the standard service offered as part of the package. With this in mind, everyone has the opportunity to feel like a rock star on their big day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Dillon Covers: Reproduction Fantasy Fiction Cover Art Posters

What do you get if you cross the work of a historical and fantasy author with world-famous cover artists?

If you’re Pauline Gedge and the artists are the husband and wife team of Leo and Diane Dillon, you end up with limited edition book cover art for your first four books. The promotional posters were not intended for sale, and were originally only produced as publicity for the novels. Child of the Morning (set in Ancient Egypt) was written in six weeks and published in 1977, The Eagle and the Raven (set in Roman Britain) followed a year later in 1978. After a gap of a few years, Stargate (fantasy) appeared in 1982 and The Twelfth Transforming (another novel set in Ancient Egypt) in 1984 under a different publisher. The New York-based couple were commissioned by the publishers to produce the definitive cover art for all of them, and for good reason. In their fifty year career (ended only by Leo’s death in 2012), the Dillons worked on over 100 books and won 22 awards, including two consecutive Caldecott Medals for their work on children’s books.

Those posters which survived soon became collectors’ items, as the Dillons did not generally license their work for widespread sale, and worked solely for the commissioning author or publisher. But, as Pauline Gedge’s career continued, her fanbase grew, and more people discovered her first four novels and their arresting cover art. Leo and Diane Dillon began their career by producing fantastical book covers and illustrations for author Harlan Ellison, himself known for speculative fiction of the highest order. Moving on to producing covers for paperback science fiction, the couple soon cemented their reputation in this field. Any self-respecting fantasy or science fiction reader will tell you that the cover art will sell as much of the book as the words inside it. Apart from the blurb on the back cover, the art on the front is the first thing any prospective reader sees. From that they may gain an idea of the personality of the hero or heroine or see an illustration of a pivotal point in the book.

It is no surprise then that these highly crafted promotional posters became much sought after items for specialist collectors. Now, it is possible to order full-sized reproductions of these landmark items. Head to Pauline Gedge’s website and click on the Dillon Covers page. For £13 (GBP) each you can order a full sized reproduction copy of each of the four famed cover art pieces from the Dillons. What’s more, the artwork for The Twelfth Transforming was never actually released as a poster, so this is a one-off chance for historical fiction fans worldwide to acquire the full set of these amazing works. Spanning the times from Ancient Egypt through the Roman Empire and into the realms of fantasy, the entire set of four reproductions brings to life the influential first four novels written by Pauline Gedge. There are another nine or so other novels that she has written since, including two trilogies - for those who like sequels or a series - but the first four are the ones which built her initial standing in the world of historical and fantasy fiction.

Yes, you read that right. For just over £50 (GBP) you can own replicas of the full set of cover art prints for Pauline Gedge’s first four books. As a fantasy and historical fiction fan myself, I am rather tempted by this offer. To top it off, the first three books, with covers based on the original artworks, are being reissued by Chicago Review Press.

With her first novel Child of the Morning, Pauline Gedge won the Alberta Search-for-a-New Novelist Competition. Her second, The Eagle and the Raven, won the Jean Boujassy award from the Société des Gens de Lettres in France and her fourth, The Twelfth Transforming, was awarded the Writers Guild of Alberta Best Novel of the Year Award. Her third, Stargate, was nominated for the Canadian SF and Fantasy Association’s 1983 Prix Aurora Award. It is only fitting that work of such renown should be accompanied by literary artwork of the same caliber.

With this offer, fans of the work of both Pauline Gedge and Leo and Diane Dillon have the chance to own a small piece of history. If these reproductions end up becoming as sought after as the original posters, buyers could be on to a winner here.